Children living in North West towns where fly-in, fly-out workers dominate are fearful of sexual predators and violence, a parliamentary inquiry into the FIFO workforce has been told.
Youth Affairs Council of WA's Craig Comrie told the Federal Government inquiry in Perth yesterday he had multiple reports of young people feeling unsafe or threatened in regional WA where FIFO workers were prominent in small communities.
He believed support services and local agencies were either under- resourced or non-existent in many regional areas, putting young people at risk.
"Young people are reporting violence and inappropriate sexual behaviour," Mr Comrie said. "The stories we've heard include quite predatory behaviour with young women and also the impact of alcohol consumption in communities.
"Young people have identified a number of stories with us . . . associated with FIFO communities.
"I think the safety of young people in regional communities impacted by FIFO is something that critically needs to be looked at, particularly in WA."
Commissioner for Children and Young People Michelle Scott told the inquiry she feared young children were the forgotten element in FIFO-related debate and regional planning visions.
She said more support services were required for the children of FIFO workers who often endured long stints with one parent away.
"If you go to communities where FIFO families live . . . it's impacting on schools, it's impacting on kids when the parents come back," Ms Scott said.
"Some principals say when one parent comes back some kids take time off.
"In some communities where that is happening, young people themselves are saying they really want to have more time with that parent."
Peak support organisation FIFO Families and psychologist Anne Sibbel testified that they believed elements of the support offered to Australian Defence Force families could be replicated for families of transient mine workers.
Inductions for families and workers before they began FIFO work and ongoing support and information about what to expect from having one partner away for long stints would be hugely beneficial, Dr Sibbel said. "FIFO does offer challenges and we do need to offer support for those people who aren't necessarily coping well.
"If we look at the similarities, we can use and adapt some of the things defence forces do, some of the pre-deployment type things.
"Certainly there are lots of things we can look at, too."The inquiry will move to Kalgoorlie today for its final WA hearing.
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